Malignant mesothelioma refers to the development of cancer in the mesothelium, which is the tissue that lines the lungs, stomach, heart, and other organs. It is mainly caused by prolonged exposure to asbestos fibers. This article provides information on this deadly disease.
The development of a benign or malignant tumor in the mesothelium (protective membrane lining various bodily cavities) is one of the characteristic signs of mesothelioma. This condition usually occurs due to direct or indirect asbestos exposure. It usually starts in the lungs, but can also affect other organs. condition. Malignant mesothelioma is a rare type of cancer.
People in the high-risk groups include people who are directly exposed to asbestos fibers. This condition could affect asbestos mine workers, ship builders, construction workers, ship breakers, clutch or brake liner workers, building renovators, or mechanics who come into contact with asbestos fibers directly. Indirect exposure could also be a contributing factor. This might take place when family and friends of those who have been directly exposed come into contact with the affected person.
When a person inhales fine asbestos fibers, the fibers firmly stick to the lungs. Asbestos fibers in the hair or clothing of a person who is directly exposed to asbestos, can act as a medium endangering others in close contact with him. In general, life expectancy is about 12 – 18 months with treatment, because it is almost always diagnosed in the advanced stages. It has been observed that it takes nearly 30 to 40 years after the initial exposure to asbestos, for this condition to develop and show its severe effects.
Pleural mesothelioma cancer affects the lining surrounding the lungs (pleura). It is the most common type of mesothelioma cancer. Over 80% of those diagnosed with mesothelioma suffer from it. Mild to severe chest pain, traces of blood in the sputum, constant cough, shortness of breath, wheezing while breathing, excess fluid around the lungs are some of the symptoms of this disease. The median life expectancy for this type of mesothelioma is only 242 days.
Peritoneal mesothelioma cancer affects the lining surrounding the stomach. Statistical record shows only 10 to 20% of those diagnosed with mesothelioma cancer are found suffering from it. Tissue lumps in the abdomen, constant pain in the abdomen, nausea, sudden unexpected weight loss, constant diarrhea or constipation, excess fluid around the stomach, etc. are some of the symptoms. The median life expectancy of this type is 5 to 13 months for untreated cases.
Pericardial mesothelioma cancer affects the lining surrounding the heart. It is the rarest type of cancer. Extremely few of those diagnosed with mesothelioma suffer from this cancer. Constant cough, chest pain, heart palpitations, and shortness of breath are some of the symptoms. It is roughly estimated that the life expectancy of about 50 to 60 percent of pericardial mesothelioma patients is six months after diagnosis. Hardly one or two patients have survived for a year or more.
X rays, CT scan, MRI scan, etc., are some of the procedures that can help diagnose this disease. Surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation are the treatments available. These treatments just alleviate the symptoms and extend the life expectancy by a few months.
The average life expectancy, for patients of mesothelioma, at the time of diagnosis is about one year. One of the major factors which influences the life expectancy is the stage to which the disease has advanced.
- Stage I: In this initial stage of mesothelioma, only one layer of the pleura is affected and the cancer may have spread to the pericardium or diaphragm. Studies show that 50% of the patients diagnosed with mesothelioma can live another 5 years, if treated at an aggressive rate.
- Stage II: In this second stage, both layers of the pleura are seen affected by mesothelioma, on only one side of the body. The life expectancy for this stage can be about 2 to 4 years after diagnosis.
- Stage III: In this third stage, the cancer spreads to the chest wall, esophagus, and lymph nodes on one side of the body. The life expectancy for this stage can be about 6 to 8 months.
- Stage IV: In this fourth or last stage of mesothelioma, the cancer spreads to other organs like brain, bones, lymph nodes, liver or to the other side of the body. Stage 4 mesothelioma life expectancy is less than six months.
Scientists are trying to find new ways and techniques to cure mesothelioma. Promising results have been noticed for the new treatments after numerous clinical trials. Individuals who come in the high-risk groups, and have been exposed to asbestos in the past, should consult the doctor immediately to learn about the latest techniques, equipment, and treatments available. The new treatment options focus on prolonging the life expectancy or even curing the cancer totally.